Tuesday, November 5, 2013

We're Balloons: The Capacity to Love and Be Loved.

When I was a kid, I had an irrational fear of balloon animals. The twisting of thin latex filled with full-to-capacity air freaked me out. I hated the sound of a balloon popping. Like the equally horrific Jack In The Box, I dreaded the inevitable three seconds of piss-your-pants fear that was supposed to be fun and an integral part of childhood. I’m not sure why, but I never ran away from the balloon animal booth even though it was an experience that was always filled with anxiety. I knew there were risks, but it seemed worthwhile to see little pieces of rubber evolve into a magical flower or a cat with three legs.

I always admired balloon animal artists because they could do something I couldn’t: inflate a balloon with their mouths. As a kid, I was so embarrassed when balloons were passed around at parties because I knew I wouldn’t be able to blow them up. I was always that kid who was red-in-the-face relentlessly trying to be like everyone else. I never successfully managed and someone’s nice Mom would help me while all the other kids made me feel bad for my weak lung-capacity.

Recently, a lady in my meditation group asked me how I cope with the way ignorant people treat me. She admitted that she had cyber-stalked me a bit and found it admirable that I can be confident when it’s clear that my self-esteem has been often compromised by society.

I told her that people are a lot like balloons. She looked confused. Truthfully, I didn’t know where I was going with my balloon analogy either, but I just ran with it. Some balloons are easier to inflate while others take quite a bit of effort. It comes down to a person’s capacity to grow. We are all conditioned with certain beliefs and some people feel there’s no need to stretch and open their minds to unfamiliar ideas. I get that. Some people will look at me and see someone who is broken because they don’t have the capacity to see me fully as a person. I can’t control that. The only thing I have control of is how I see myself. While it’s frustrating, I know it’s impossible to change a person without their consent. So, that’s why I think people are like balloons.

She seemed satisfied with my answer and I left. On my way home, I realized that I needed to hear that message myself. At the time, I had been mending a disappointed heart after yet another potential relationship dissolved into my current season of singledom. I was in the usual “I’m never dating again” mode and even looking at a happy couple filled my heart with sadness.

It was so easy to be in the man-hating mentality because four of my close girlfriends were also swearing off relationships. Commiserating over heartbreak is enlightening for about a week, and then it quickly becomes group therapy with no hope of resolution.

Some popular topics of girl group therapy:

1. “I wasn’t worth being loved. I’m so ugly.”

2. “I’m never going to find anyone, I’ll end up alone.”

3. “I’m done with dating, I’m never going to love again!” – this declaration actually helps to make number 2 quite foreseeable.

These are all lies that are encouraged by our disappointed hearts. Don’t let that inner-douchebag fool you, you’re just sad. Be sad, but know that life is in a state of constant change and those feelings will dissipate with time.

When I go through a break-up, I always feel awful and blame myself. It never gets easier. I automatically assume that it’s because he’s ashamed to be seen with me. In addition to my physicality, I also think it’s because of my fledging career, living at home with my family again, etc. I pull out all sorts of scenarios that make me feel terrible. The truth is that sometimes, I’ve just got too much booty for one man to handle (Thanks DJ Felli Fel, haha). On a more serious note, my reality entails that some men just aren’t comfortable being with a woman who isn’t conventional. That’s their thing, not mine.

I think we all find ourselves in that pit of despair when we let other people define our worth. After discussing levels of capacity with meditation lady, I started to see girl group therapy from a different perspective. So much of the laments involved our own inadequacies while completely ignoring the fact that maybe that guy was just not the right person. The details don’t really matter after a break-up. It just wasn’t meant to be and the end of one relationship opens up the potential for a better one (when you’re ready).

Instead of accepting the end of a relationship as just a season coming to a close, we make up all sorts of fantasy stories of how great it could’ve been. We brush aside all of the red flags and see ourselves and our men on the cover of a romantic novel that you’d find in line at the grocery store check-out. Rubbish! The disappointed heart only allows visions of the would-be greatness that will never be instead of the reality that he just didn’t have the capacity to give anymore. Don’t believe it.

With the help of meditation lady, I realized that my true failing in the way I interacted in relationships was my own inability to have the capacity to value myself. What did I expect? I couldn’t even recognize my worth; it became so evidently weird that I had the audacity to expect someone else to love me when I couldn’t manage to love myself. Relationships aren’t meant to be a point of validation. Expecting someone else to love you when you can’t even love yourself is a lot like having someone blow up a balloon first and letting you have the sloppy saliva seconds.

I’m so glad meditation lady asked me that question and forced me to find an answer. The stories and advice we share with other people are often messages we need to apply to our own lives. From that brief interaction, I had to confront the reality that I sought love from others because I struggled to be happy on my own. Until I can see the value in myself, I know my insecurities will inevitably sabotage any future relationships.

Being in love is one of the most amazing feelings in life. In my opinion, having a true connection with someone who doubles as best friend and lover is an experience well worth the risk of being vulnerable. While the idea of sending another, “just want to make sure you know I’m a Little Person” pre-meeting text makes me sick to my stomach, I look forward to dating again (when I’m ready). Everyone has the capacity to love and be loved. In my opinion, I think it’s wise to learn from mistakes, but at the same time go into new opportunities with an open heart. Like everything else in life worth pursuing, being available to love and be loved takes work and believing in the possibility.


  1. I love you. Always and forever. This is a great piece. Thank you for sharing and opening up. I hate balloons too - I guess this is why we are friends. :)

  2. Diane, having just met you, I think you are absolutely loving and ready to be loved! Bravo for having the cojones to stand up tall in a world where integrity is the true measure of a person's stature. My best wishes to you always, Audrey